Romain Grosjean, Haas, Sochi Autodrom, 2019

Grosjean expects tough end to season after first-lap retirement

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In the round-up: Romain Grosjean doubts Haas will be as competitive as they were in Sochi again this year.

What they say

Grosjean was asked if Sochi indicated Haas will be more competitive over the rest of the season:

I’m afraid not. I think here we were competitive from the beginning of the weekend. Why came a bit of as a surprise but happy. Maybe Japan could be good but we’re expecting a tough end of the season I think the recent form has shown more than a one-off. So that’s why it’s even more hard

to digest because you’re like OK this is the race we can do it, we’ve got a huge amount of pressure in qualifying because you know it’s your only chance in the minute to go to Q2 and you work hard and you’ve been taken off on lap one, it’s very hard.

Quotes: Dieter Rencken

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Comment of the day

Ferrari feel into a trap Mercedes have successfully dodged, says John:

I think this just highlights how well the Mercedes team is run, they face all of the same issues as other teams yet have managed to dominate F1 for several seasons. Even now with Ferrari arguably having the better car and two very good drivers. They are susceptible to even relatively minor issues wrecking their strategies.

Mercedes is still getting the best overall results, they have a large amount of redundancy that enables them to cover mistakes or miscalculations. That short of a sudden and unforeseen implosion will see them wrap up the drivers’ and the constructors’ championships well before seasons end.
JohnH (@johnrkh)

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On this day in F1

  • 30 years ago today Ayrton Senna dominated the Spanish Grand Prix at Jerez, reducing his points deficit to championship leader Alain Prost.

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27 comments on “Grosjean expects tough end to season after first-lap retirement”

  1. Have to say that i’m not a big fan of the new WEC graphics package. Them dimming the edges of the screen for the position tower & whenever they pull something up at the bottom gives the impression that your losing screen space. And also the way the tower works just looks messy at times. And having the car details sitting in limbo during the onboard shots looks odd. Some of the other animations are distracting & at times the screen looks cluttered with things like the telemetry spread across both sides of the screen.

    1. I agree. It’s style over substance compromising usability, something the F1 graphics package suffers from as well. But unlike F1, they at least didn’t make the mistake of developing their design language around an accessibility and legibility nightmare of a font.

  2. they have a large amount of redundancy that enables them to cover mistakes or miscalculations

    @johnrkh – good CotD, and I particularly agree with this point above. In terms of race operations, Mercedes are amongst the best teams, sharing honours with Red Bull and… no one else.

    Their success till date is therefore multi-layered – good engine, good aero, good drivers (errr… driver?), good race strategies, and they are often able to soak up an error in one area with their strengths in the others. It is probably also why their occasional failures stand out that much more.

    When I first heard the radio comms from Ferrari on Sunday about engineering a swap, I was impressed thinking to myself that – bolstered by Singapore – Ferrari were finally getting proactive in managing the race and covering their opponents. Sadly, that devolved into a farcical radio exchange, and ended in a damp squib with Vettel retiring and Leclerc unable to even pass Bottas (which now informs me that my earlier phrase should read “good drivers” for unique definitions of good).

    1. Yes, the CotD really gets to the point @johnrkh.

      Ferrari is faster, but the Mercedes operation overall is still the better one.

      1. I disagree guys, @phylyp, @bascb.
        Just go back one week and you’ll see how poor Mercedes’ strategy can be.
        And not sure what Ferrari did wrong. Just extremely unlucky with a PU failure and a VSC at the wrong time. Even their pit stop under SC was the right call but their driver did not convert it into an overtake in a faster car on (slightly) fresher tyres.
        Also before the race all agreed that Mercedes’ strategy to have both cars on medium was wrong. And indeed both cars lost a position at the start which only luck (PU failure, VSC) helped them to revert.

        1. We’re on parallel tracks here, @coldfly :)

          Like I said, instances of a Merc failure like this are the exception, and why they stand out. I didn’t see the Singapore race so can’t offer an opinion (and will grant you that point); but at Sochi, they didn’t have the outright engine power, they blew their choice of starting tyre, and were potentially compromised by the field closing up under the SC, but managed to still safeguard their 1-2 with some careful driving by Bottas. That’s their multi-layered approach working in their favour the moment a single advantage (i.e. the VSC) is handed their way.

          Ferrari have a lot of good building blocks – a good engine, apparently a handle on their aero/chassis post-summer, good drivers (i.e. both better than Bottas), but they need to put that into an unassailable structure to counter Mercedes’ supremacy.

          Red Bull are still exposed on their PU and second driver front, but successfully use all the other factors to still put together a Ferrari-threatening campaign.

          1. Great minds ….. , @phylyp.

            Red Bull are still exposed on their PU and second driver front

            I’m not sure the RB car’s weak spot is (only) their PU. It seems to be more balanced/complex/subtle than that. The car is not as stable as the other two, but that might also be to compensate a less powerfull/driveable PU.

      2. Yep, CotD makes a good point, and your expansion on that is well said too @phylyp, have to agree @bascb, though I would add the qualifier ‘Ferrari is faster for the moment‘ – exactly because the Mercedes strength in depth, it might well be that Mercedes will come out of the starting blocks next year with a monster car/PU again.

        I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that Mercedes minimised further effort on the current car/PU, as they hardly need it to win the WDC, WCC (though for honour and motivation on the weekends, fighting for the win might make them try more).

    2. I feel my reply in another thread regarding the potential for 2021 to close up the field is relevant here:

      since Merc’s domination began they havent just relied on one “magic bullet” no F Duct, no double decker diffuser, no blown rear wing, no flexi wing. The engine has been on par or below the Ferrari since last year so it isn’t that. On top of that the team has changed it’s concept year on year too.

      What i’m saying is, they’ll still be up there and given their ability to react to new regs better than others, maybe further ahead than right now.

      1. Yep, very nice point there. And to be honest, any team that is able to adapt as dynamically as that deserves all the success that comes their way.

  3. I share the same views as the COTD on the matter of Ferrari-tactics in the last race. Mercedes indeed has managed this aspect better overall than Ferrari.

  4. Roth Man (@rdotquestionmark)
    1st October 2019, 7:16

    Grosjean doesn’t half get himself whipped up into a negative frenzy over these things doesn’t he. Be disappointed, kick off, move on. He’s now practically writing off his season after admitting Sochi pace was a surprise, well maybe you might have another ‘surprise’ in store so stop moaning and get your head down.

    1. Kevin Magnussen got fastest lap at Singapore, but for some miserly reason he can’t claim the point. At the very least that shows Haas have the potential for some good points finishes later this year.

      1. It makes me wonder if the gimmick of a point for FLAP should be extended further into the land of gimmickry. Give anywhere between 1-20 points for the driver with the FLAP, based on their finishing position: So if P1 gets FLAP, he gets +1 point… but if Kubica in P20 snags the FLAP, he gets a cool 20 points.

        It would set the cat amongst the pigeons at the tail of the field, and might also discourage people from tactically retiring a car.

        Now, have at it and tell me why this is a silly idea even for F1 :)

        1. @phylyp completely agree, I never understood the top 10 rule. For teams down the grid the extra point is way more valuable, imagine Williams / Haas diving into the pits on the penultimate lap and giving it a full on qually run. Would be more satisfying than watching them limp over the line (or not, they usually cross off air)

  5. regarding title winning V12s – didn’t lauda win in 1975 and 1977, and scheckter in 1979 with a V12? or was a it a flat-12?

    1. Bit of a weird one – to the best of my knowledge it was essentially a flat V12, rather than a true boxer engine. That would ruin a nice headline though :) The Alfa motors in the back of the Brabhams of that era were of a similar stripe, I believe.

      https://www.autoevolution.com/news/there-s-a-big-difference-between-a-boxer-and-flat-engine-85305.html

      Here the difference is explained.

      1. thanks for that, really nice explanation. it seems the 70s ferraris were indeed flat-12s – the title winning engines are referred to as F12 (F for flat obvs). we can rest easy, @Keithcollatine was right all along.

  6. @ CotD:

    They are susceptible to even relatively minor issues wrecking their strategies.

    To me, this reads like a continuation of the (implied) fallacy in the title of the article this comment referred to (Hamilton triumphs as Ferrari’s micro-management backfires).
    Okay, yes, it was a relatively minor issue, and yes, it did wreck their race strategy.
    However, if we look at the last race (and frankly, I don’t know what other race it could refer to), the implied meaning (a relatively minor issue wrecked their race strategy because Ferrari are doing it wrong) is simply fallacious. The implied connection with the failed team strategy: Inexistent.

    Yes, Ferrari’s team strategy didn’t work as intended, owing to Vettel’s refusal to keep his side of the bargain. But how did that affect the final result? Not in the slightest. A Safety Car (or VSC; up to the point where the leader catches the Safety Car, they’re identical) that is deployed after your pit stop but before your opponents’ is an uncounterable throw of the dice.
    Yes, the general narrative during and after the race was that Ferrari kinda had it coming with all their ‘drama’ (which, again, came down to the refusal of one of their employees to keep his side of a bargain, whose entire point was to benefit said employee). But the thing is: There is no connection between the failed team strategy and either A) Vettel’s PU problem or B) the outcome of the race. There is nothing they could’ve done differently to avoid losing the race.
    They could’ve not made that agreement before the start, they could’ve not talked about switching positions, they could’ve pitted Vettel earlier than Leclerc – literally every single action that would’ve made strategic sense without input from a time traveller would’ve yielded exactly the same result. Vettel’s electric thingy would’ve failed anyway, Leclerc would’ve pitted earlier than Mercedes anyway, the VSC would’ve decided the race anyway.

    Moving on to the next fallacies:

    Even now with Ferrari arguably having the better car and two very good drivers. […] Mercedes is still getting the best overall results,

    If we look at the entire season, Ferrari only started arguably having the better car 4 races ago (plus Bahrain, maybe Canada, and Austria, but those races were also not lost due to mismanagement, but driver error/reliability [Bahrain], driver error/controversial penalty [Canada], another team arguably having an even better car [Austria]). In the rest of the season, Mercedes had better results mainly because they were faster. This isn’t to say they haven’t done anything right, quite the opposite really, but in light of the recent form swing, the actual course of the first half of the season is apparently fading into oblivion.

    But back to the part about Mercedes ‘still getting the best overall results’:
    Since the summer break (and Ferrari’s return to form; they were a minute off the pace in Hungary), Ferrari have won 3 out of 4 races, and that one race they didn’t win was one they would’ve won if not for circumstances beyond anyone’s control (see above). Leclerc has scored more points than anyone else, despite being denied race wins that could’ve been his in Singapore and Russia. Ferrari were only very slightly outscored by Mercedes, despite Vettel not scoring any points in two of these races.

    Conversely, Mercedes’ strategies were found lacking when compared to Ferrari’s:
    – In Belgium, Ferrari strategically used Vettel to cover an undercut and delay Hamilton in a day where the Mercedes was the faster car (qualifying was clearly a different story). They sacrificed Vettel’s result, but got a race win out of it.
    (- Monza was a different story, I don’t really see what Mercedes could’ve done differently)
    – In Singapore, Mercedes admitted they dropped the ball on several counts: They believed they could’ve had pole position, but focussed too much on race setup, they were too conservative with their pit stops in the race, so instead of getting 2nd (or maybe 1st, with a succesful undercut like Vettel’s) and 5th, they got 4th and 5th. Meanwhile, Ferrari succeeded in getting both drivers ahead of everyone else and made it a 1-2.
    – In Russia, Ferrari devised a slipstream strategy for the start of the race in order to make it a 1-2 again, and it worked (it may have worked even without Leclerc’s cooperation, but that’s unknowable). After their pit stops, they were just 19 seconds behind the lead (time loss for a pit stop: 25-26 seconds), with Leclerc consistently lapping a second faster than Hamilton. Meanwhile, Mercedes realised their decision to start the race on ‘medium’ tyres was ill-advised (“I think we would have gone onto the soft for the last 25 laps and been on a soft against the medium. Realistically, you must say, I don’t think it would have been enough. We would have followed them in the gearbox like in the last few races, but not enough,” quoth Toto Wolff; “I think ultimately they were right because the soft tyre was much stronger than we anticipated,” quoth Lewis Hamilton). Long story short: A Ferrari 1-2 looked inevitable, the most pressing question at that stage appeared to be whether Leclerc would be able to keep his lead or whether Vettel would claim it back. Then Vettel’s car went zap (it didn’t quite go bang, so I went for an electricity-related onomatopoeia …), the VSC came out, gave both Mercedes cheap pit stops and Leclerc found himself stuck between a rock and a hard place: Should he try to defend against Bottas on slightly worn ‘medium’ tyres against brand new ‘soft’ tyres on Bottas’ car, giving up any hope of challenging Hamilton? Or should he sacrifice 2nd place to take on a set of fresh ‘soft’ tyres as well, for a small chance to claw his way back to the front? We all know how that turned out, but the question is, could Ferrari have done anything better (speaking of aspects that have a direct influence on the result, and leaving angry/stubborn radio communications aside)? To which my answer is: No, they couldn’t. Leclerc’s gamble for fresh tyres didn’t pay off, but A) we can’t be certain that he would’ve managed to stay ahead of Bottas on harder tyres, and B) at this stage of the championship, Ferrari probably don’t care about the difference between 2nd and 3rd place anymore. They want to win races, so any strategy that gives them even a small chance of fighting for the win should be preferable to a strategy that serves to keep a position that isn’t 1st.

    Summary:
    Ferrari’s strategies since the summer break: Pretty much flawless, 3 closely fought wins out of 4 races, only bad luck stopped them from winning 4 out of 4.
    Mercedes’ strategies since the summer break: Found lacking in 3 out of 4 races.

    (Just in case someone feels the need to say “Yes, but the rest of the season …”: That isn’t the point here. @johnrkh said

    Mercedes is still getting the best overall results

    , clearly referring to the context in which Ferrari arguably have the faster car, i.e. the races since the summer break.)

    Next point:

    Mercedes is still getting the best overall results, they have a large amount of redundancy that enables them to cover mistakes or miscalculations.

    I dunno, I don’t quite see it. It sounds like something many would agree to, but what does it mean? What does it refer to? Are there concrete examples?

    When I hear “Mercedes” and “miscalculations”, two races immediately spring to mind:
    – Monaco 2015 (okay, that’s a long time ago), when Hamilton wanted to pit from the lead under a late Safety Car, and a miscalculation led his pit wall to agree, which ended up costing him 2 places.
    – Australia 2018, when a miscalculated VSC pit stop window led Hamilton’s pit wall to slow Hamilton down before he had actually closed the pit stop window behind Vettel, allowing the Ferrari driver to steal the win when the VSC was deployed a few laps later.
    (Notice the parallels to the last race? Yet, back in 2018, there was an outrage. Many commenters strongly felt – some still do even to this day – that Vettel had done something egregiously immoral, or downright illegal, by driving exactly as quickly as the VSC regulations permitted, to benefit from the cheap pit stop and stay ahead of Hamilton. Back in 2019, exactly the same thing happened, only this time it benefited Hamilton. Outrage? Hardly, if any. Ironic, isn’t it?)

    And one last thing:

    That short of a sudden and unforeseen implosion will see them wrap up the drivers’ and the constructors’ championships well before seasons end.

    We clearly don’t mean the same “that”.
    My “that” would be the immense haul of points Mercedes had in the first half of the season, where they reaped in unprecedented results that, very few exceptions aside, were a direct consequence of having the fastest and most reliable car, while Ferrari and Verstappen were busy taking away points from each other.
    Quick recap:
    – Mercedes won 9 of the first 10 races, including the first 8 in a row
    – They had 7 1-2 finishes in those 10 races
    – They scored 18 out of 20 possible podiums
    – They scored 407 out of 440 possible points (!!!), including fastest laps
    – They had 7 out of 10 pole positions and 16 out of 20 qualifying results that were either 1st or 2nd

    At that stage, Ferrari did make some questionable strategic calls, e.g. the Leclerc-Vettel swap in China that might’ve allowed Verstappen to take 3rd from them. But that’s the sort of thing that maybe cost them 3 points per race in some races. Meanwhile, Mercedes were pulling away by 16 points per race. On average!

    This is not to take anything away from Mercedes. They’ve produced a bullet-proof car that absolutely crushed the competition in the first half of the season and still might be the best car to be in on a Sunday afternoon. And yes, their driver line-up is drama-free, because their drivers simply do not compete at the same level, and whenever anyone remarks that this is maybe somewhat boring, Wolff quickly says “Rosberg” and everyone immediately thinks of those traumatic years when they scored 56 out of 59 poles, 51 out of 59 race wins, and you simply didn’t know which one of their drivers would win the title before the season began. And then they shudder and tell Bottas to slow down a little and leave a gap for his team mate to slot into, because this is as it should be.

    Pardon the hyperbole.
    But let’s just tell it as it is: If Mercedes are wrapping up both championships months before the season is over, this is nothing to do with strategic excellence (in the sense that it made a difference). It was all about immensely competitive material and a fair share of luck. In addition to winning countless races due to superior material, they’ve also hit the jackpot three times in races where strategy played either no role at all or at least not how they expected it to. There was nothing they could do to stop Leclerc from winning in Bahrain, but his engine issue gave them a 1-2. There wasn’t much Hamilton could do about Vettel in Canada, but a driver error and a controversial penalty gave him the win. There wasn’t much Mercedes could do about a Ferrari 1-2 in Russia, but Vettel’s technical issue and the subsequent VSC gave Mercedes a 1-2. In all those races, I can think of exactly one race where Mercedes made exactly the right strategic decision, and that was pitting Hamilton a second time in Hungary. That one saw him wrest the win from Verstappen. Other than that? Standard procedure. The obvious advantage of not having a Vettel in their ranks who spins every now and then and throws away valuable points by doing this. But, over the course of this season, I really don’t see where they’re supposed to have had a strategic edge over Ferrari, much less in the races since the summer break that the CotD is based on.

    1. Flipping hell you’ve got some time on your hands.

      1. LOL, I was thinking to myself “Man, I need a cup of tea before I read that”.

        1. Power outage on that one server all necessary resources for my work were on (to simplify a little). In the Freudian sense, I sublimed my productivity (into something … sublime?).

          1. A fellow IT dude, and a Sublime user – you, sir, are a man of culture.

    2. nase :))

    3. @nase – I’m not going to attempt to respond to everything because a) Who has time and b) I don’t disagree with all of it. But on the COTD’s point:

      Mercedes is still getting the best overall results, they have a large amount of redundancy that enables them to cover mistakes or miscalculations.

      …you seem to take umbrage. However, just below that you say:

      …would be the immense haul of points Mercedes had in the first half of the season, where they reaped in unprecedented results that, very few exceptions aside, were a direct consequence of having the fastest and most reliable car

      Which, if I’m not misreading the COTD is sort of the point. Even if they are not the fastest, they are really damn reliable. So when gremlins come knocking in Bahrain, guess who is there? When they come again in Sochi, guess who is right behind? Even in Canada, I think it would be difficult to say that Seb’s off had nothing to do with the pressure he was getting from Hamilton behind. And even if his off was entirely down to his own error and having zero to do with Hamilton’s presence, the fact that Hamilton was close enough to be there when Vettel rejoined also points to the COTD. Even when it is not Merc’s weekend, they seem to be able—through strategy, reliability, speed—to be right there in case something goes wrong and scooping up the most points possible even if it is 3rd/4th.

      Meanwhile, even on Ferrari’s best days, they are not getting maximum points. Ferarri has only had both drivers on the podium twice this season versus 11x for Mercedes. Yes, Merc had an amazing start. But even since the summer break, Merc has done it 3x to Ferrari’s once.

      I think you would have to admit that Merc don’t get it horribly wrong that often. In addition, there is more to strategy than how the race is run. Like getting the car design right at the start of the season so you don’t start in a massive hole. Having stable drivers [note: even if I don’t like that they keep Bottas]. Etc. In that regard, I think it is difficult to argue that Merc’s strategy trendline is still above Ferrari’s. That’s my opinion anyway.

      1. That next to last line should have read:

        I think it is difficult to argue that Merc’s strategy trendline is not still above Ferrari’s.

    4. I think your boss should block this site, it’s costing him too much money.

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